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James May picks the car that changed the world…

…And it’s a model. That’s right, James May says the Corgi DB5 model car is the car that changed the world.

JAMES MAY CHOSE the just-ended London Classic Car Show to announce his 13 most influential cars of all time, and not all of them were cars. Indeed, the BBC TopGear TV presenter chose the Corgi DB5 1:46 scale model car from 1964 as his most influential car of all time.

“The thing about the Corgi DB5 is that it was a great toy at the time. If you’ve got an iPod now you’ll probably think it’s rubbish, but at the time it was absolutely amazing,” said May.

“Of course it is a personal and emotive choice and a lot of people will disagree with me. But that’s the point of this display. It’s about starting a debate rather than concluding one.”

Produced following Goldfinger, which starred Sean Connery as James Bond, the Corgi DB5 offered retractable machine guns, opening roof with ejector seat, rear bullet screen and telescopic riders. The model car was chosen as the Toy of the Year in 1964 and sold 6,000,000 units. Corgi has announced it will unveil a re-issue of the original DB5 at the London Toy Fair later this month.

May split the 13 cars into two groups, the first half dozen were displayed in what he called ‘The Halls of Obviousness’ with the second half dozen in ‘The Chambers of Bloody-mindedness’.

The six ‘obvious’ cars (plus May’s comments) are:

1886 Benz Motorwagen. “People will argue about this, but the Benz Motorwagen was the first true car as we would understand it.”

1908 Ford Model T. “The brilliance of the Model T is the way that it was made, rather than the car itself.”

1938 Volkswagen Beetle. “It became the world’s best selling single-platform car, even though the early models were pretty horrendous to drive.”

1959 Austin Mini. “An original Mini is incredibly uncomfortable and a bit hairy if you crash it, but also fantastic to drive.”

1964 Ford Mustang. “In the first six months of its life it was the fastest selling car in history. It’s the car that democratised style and performance.”

1997 Toyota Prius. “It was the first mainstream car of my lifetime that caused people to rethink the basics of how a car should work.”

And the six Bloody-minded choices are:

1901 Waverley Electric. “At the beginning of the 20th century, electric car outsold petrol-powered cars in parts of America. They were clean, quiet and didn’t make ladies’ skirts grubby.”

1906 Cadillac Model K. “The real hero of the mass-produced car story isn’t Ford’s Model T but the Cadillac Model K.”

1933 Standard Superior. “It is widely accepted that Josef Ganz, a respected Jewish engineer, came up with the basic layout and philosophy of the Beetle.”

1972 Honda Civic. “The original Civic was a compact, lively and fuel efficient car that was well made and almost faultlessly reliable.”

1980 Lada Riva. “The Russian-built, Fiat 124-derived, Riva did more than any other to put communism on wheels.”

2009 Bruno ExoMars Rover. “Autonomous, self-sustaining and suitable for use on other planets, it is surely the world’s most advanced all-terrain vehicle.”

What would be your 13 most significant cars of all time?


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober